Springville World Folkfest bridges gap between nations with dance and outreach program

world folkfest
Dancers from around the world opening the festival for the Utah audience in full regalia.

In a time when countries are at odds, and cultures are often being lost or forgotten as time goes on, there is an event that is doing its part to fix that—and has done so for the past 33 years.

The Springville World Folkfest that is taking place the July 30-August 3, is a world-renowned event that invites international folk dance and music groups to participate from all around the world in an effort to bridge the gaps between countries and cultures.

This year’s 34th annual World Folkfest will welcome ensembles from Croatia, Mexico, Netherlands, Poland, Taiwan, Russia, along with Utah’s own Morning Star (Native American).

Rocky Mountain Express (Cloggers) and Voices of Polynesia (Dances from our US Islands).

world folk fest
International Dancers and host families join hands to dance and celebrate at the Free Street Dance. (This year will be held July 29, 2019, at the Springville Art Museum parking lot.)

The festival is open to the public, and is an event for people from all all walks of life. There are many individuals, however, who are unable to attend for one reason or another, and this is where the festival’s outreach program comes in to play.

“For the past several years, Folkfest has had an outreach program to allow groups of people who are not able to attend, the chance to experience some of these cultural dances,” Director of Events, Tanner Jackson said. “Each year, each group of international dancers is given the chance to community groups in nee,” he said. “This year, we have a group from Poland who is going to teach a dance to some Polish-Utah immigrants who are actually from their very same town. It will be a great opportunity to bring a bit of home to the new Utah residents, who probably miss a bit of their home in Poland.”

There have been many moments where the outreach program has touched individuals here in Utah. Folkfest International Director, Emily Wilkinson recalls one time at an elderly care center.

“I remember going to an outreach event where a group from Chile had visited an elderly care center,” Wilkinson recalled. “There was a lady at the care center who had begun to forget the English language but had retained the language of her childhood, which was Spanish. As the performers began to dance and sing, she started to cry because she felt a connection that she needed so badly. After the performance, one of the performers sat with the lady and even cradled her as she cried. The performer sat there and spoke to her in her native tongue, and you could just feel the love in that room. That experience showed exactly what this festival is about, which is bridging the gap between nations and speaking the language we all speak, which is love—through the use of dance.”

World Folkfest dancers.

The 2019 Springville World Folkfest will take place Tuesday, July 30 – Saturday, August 3, with the outreach program being held on Wednesday, Thursday and Friday of that week. For more information, the Folkfest, go to www.worldfolkfest.org. If you or your organization would like to be part of the outreach program, email Tanner Jackson at [email protected]